By Michelle Roberson
Franklin County Master Gardener
It’s that time of year: the crisp, fresh air of spring, warm sun and garden centers filling up with wonderful treasures ready to be adopted and added to your garden. Now is the time to plant!
Plants available for purchase are always set out ahead of time to spark our desire to add amazing color as we burst from winter to spring. April is the time to buy; May is the time to plant.
I am always scolded this time of year because I buy early, and wait until May to plant. Why do I do this, you ask? The answer is simple: Our latest little freeze-pranks Mother Nature likes to play in the month of April is exactly why.
April is the perfect time to plan a sharing vegetable garden; May is the time for planting. Sharing vegetable gardens are designed to allow access to fresh fruits and veggies to anyone who may choose to take advantage of the opportunity for free, fresh-from-the-vine nutrition; paying it forward. It doesn’t take much effort. The work is small, the rewards are infinite.
Start by choosing an area that is accessible to all. Taking a soil sample is a very good idea (the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services charges a small fee on samples tested from November through April 1. From April 2 to October31, there is no charge.
To get a proper soil sample, dig down about 8 inches. Don’t moisten the soil, it’s dried out for testing and just makes a big mess when it’s wetted down. After submitting your soil sample, plan what you would like to plant to share.
Measure your area and draw it out. Be creative! Cucumbers, squash, pole beans, lima beans (vine) can be trellised. Strawberries serve a dual purpose; ground cover and, of course, the delightful fruit. Buy your seeds and seedlings as they become available. If you wait until it’s time to plant, they won’t be there to buy.
Cucumber, squash, zucchini and eggplant don’t transplant well; they are better to start from seed in your garden. Pole beans grow quickly and don’t require early starting time. Tomatoes can be started early and easily transplanted.
When the first weekend of May arrives, I plant. I plant in late afternoon or early evening to avoid or reduce transplant shock. Water well. If you can, set up soaker hoses attached to a timer. Set time to turn water on in early morning (around sunrise). Depending on the flow from soaker hoses, set it to run for about an hour. You don’t want the area to be over saturated; just the areas where seeds / seedlings are located to be damp.
Water daily until seeds sprout, then water every other day for a week. Then water two to three times a week as needed depending on the amount of rain. Soon, you will have an amazing sharing vegetable garden for all to enjoy!
Be sure to let your neighbors know what you are doing; they may want to get in on it. What a wonderful thing to have a neighborhood community garden, where each home has something different to share. Families can go out each day and pick fresh fruits and veggies for their evening meal!